Max & the Magic Marker Review
Max & the Magic Marker box art
System: Wii (WiiWare) Review Rating Legend
Dev: Press Play 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Press Play 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: March 8, 2010 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

Freedom in games is often an important element for many gamers, and it's something that's spearheaded entire franchises. However, whereas some games strive to offer players the ability to tackle the experience in whatever order they choose or with a specific moral intent, Max & the Magic Marker asks players to fill in the actual blanks when it comes to level design. It's a refreshing, well-executed example of what the Wii is all about.

Max & the Magic Marker screenshot

Max & the Magic Marker offers only a sliver of story, but it's all the excuse you'll need to run through the game's 15 levels (scattered across three worlds). Max is a young boy with a vivid imagination, and through his magic-marker doodling, he gives life to a fearsome monster. It's your job to corral the monster back into the world of daydreams, and you'll need to use Max's knack for drawing in order to chase the enemy down.

For all intents and purposes, Max & the Magic Marker is a puzzle platfomer. You move Max with the analog stick on the Nunchuk, jump with the Z button, and you can move objects by holding down C. In addition to controlling Max, however, you'll also need to draw things into the world with your trusty magic marker, controlled with the Wii Remote. Though the platforming takes a little getting used to, the controls, overall, feel tight and well thought out.

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There are three main worlds in the game, with the first five levels basically serving as the tutorial. The level of challenge quickly ramps up, however, and players will immediately be asked to think outside the box in order to progress through levels.

The thrust of the entire game, of course, is in presenting the player with obstacles that can only be overcome by drawing things into the world to aid you. Come upon a chasm? Draw a simple bridge and cross over. Enemies patrolling? Create a boulder to fall on their heads and defeat them.

Max & the Magic Marker screenshot

The game registers density and gravity too, so if you simply draw a circle from a short height and attempt to drop it on an enemy, they'll be unaffected; fill that circle in, however, and then drop it from a greater distance, and it's sure to take the enemy out. The magic marker is an impressive tool, one created to give the player freedom to tinker 'til their heart's content.

Physics also play an important role in the game, and though there's the occasional frustrating moment when things you've drawn turn or bounce around unpredictably, it's an element of the experience that once again opens things up in refreshing ways. At one point you might come upon what seems to be a dead end, though drawing a line across a stone to create a sort of seesaw and then drawing a heavy weight and letting it fall on the other end will allow you to propel yourself upward, revealing the way forward.

Max & the Magic Marker screenshot

Additionally, Max can pause time by pressing both the A and B buttons simultaneously, and it's a technique that's incorporated wonderfully into the gameplay. For example, you'll occasionally come upon parts of a level where there are conveyers with no belts or platforms to jump onto. If you attempt to draw a platform first and then have Max jump onto it, the platform will be propelled forward before Max has a chance to get on. You'll first have to jump toward the conveyer, freeze time, draw the platform, and then unfreeze time, so that Max will land on the platform at just the right time in the sequence. The latter levels, especially, will call for some pretty crazy amounts of ingenuity on the player's part.

Screenshots / Images
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